Deepening Partnerships through Dialogue

Through a grant from Bringing Theory to Practice, Campus Compact has had the opportunity to support a cohort of community colleges in deepening their civic action planning work through the development of institutional dialogue initiatives. The blog post below from Sean Crossland and Lucy Smith of Salt Lake Community College is the first in a series of posts from participants in Campus Compact’s Civic Action Planning Dialogue Initiative. Stay tuned for more posts throughout the fall from participating institutions on their experiences using deliberative practices to advance civic action planning.


By Lucy Smith, Engaged Learning Coordinator, and Sean Crossland, Thayne Center Director

The Civic Action Planning Team at Salt Lake Community College identified five strategies to advance the public purpose of our institution and higher education. These goals including fully embracing high-impact practices, a new civic engagement student learning outcome, integrating civic learning across the institution, exploring community impact, and fostering a culture of reciprocity among staff, faculty and administrators.

Our participation in the Bringing Theory to Practice Dialogue Project has instigated a more deliberate approach to implementation of our Civic Action Plan. Our first dialogue convened a group of staff, faculty, administrators, and community partners who participated in a previous civic action planning discussion to explore how we might begin to implement part of this plan. We hoped to focus specifically the goals of civic learning across the institution and employee culture of reciprocal engagement. We discussed both goals at length, including how our Community Engagement Leave employee benefit and college endorsed days of service might affect our culture.  From the dialogue, we determined convening a Collaborative Work Team (CWT) to identify specific steps to make reciprocal community engagement a cultural norm for SLCC’s staff, faculty, and administrators.

Our second dialogue convened 17 of the Thayne Center’s top tier partners. This dialogue was formatted in a ‘world café’ style. Four discussion tables were facilitated by SLCC staff: service-learning, Community Engagement Leave, days of service, and the ‘sock drawer’ (anything else partners wished to discuss that did not belong at another table).  The facilitators agreed to ask probing and follow up questions, but to minimize their actions that might steer the discussion toward any particular topic. The purpose of this discussion was to hear from our partners regarding what works, what does not work, and any new ideas they may have to strengthen partnerships. About an hour later, we reconvened as a whole group to share the most salient thoughts from participants, and then briefly discuss the Civic Action Plan. This was left until the end to avoid influencing or guiding partner feedback. The comments and feedback we were able to glean from this dialogue will prove invaluable as we continue to strategize implementation of the Civic Action Plan.

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